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76th NY soldier wounded at Gettysburg passed through York County

Lt. Lucien Davis, 76th New York Volunteer Infantry
Lt. Lucien Davis, 76th New York Volunteer Infantry (from The Regimental History of the 76th New York, A. P. Smith, 1867)

Following the battle of Gettysburg, scores of wounded men on their own headed for the nearest operational train stations to seek medical attention beyond what the overcrowded temporary field hospitals could provide. Among them was 28-year-old Lt. Lucien Davis of the 76th New York.

He hailed from Tompkins County in upstate New York. The young Republican had voted for John Fremont in the presidential election of 1856 and for Abraham Lincoln in 1860. When the war erupted in 1861, he was working in the oil fields of northwestern Pennsylvania. He went home, signed up for the army in Cortland, and was mustered in as a private in Company C of the 76th NY. Davis rose through the ranks, survived a minor chest wound  in 1862, and by the time of the Gettysburg campaign held a commission as a First Lieutenant.

At Gettysburg on July 1, the 76th NY was heavily engaged with Confederates west of town near the unfinished railroad cut. The regiment’s commander, Maj. Andrew Grover, was killed and Lieutenant Davis suffered a painful gunshot wound through the palm of his right hand. According to his biographer, he “He wrapped it in a tourniquet on his arm, using a ramrod for a stick, which he held in his hand. He carried his sword in his left hand, and continued in the fight.” During the ensuing retreat to Cemetery Hill that afternoon, Davis was grazed in the leg but managed to make it to a church which had opened its doors to the wounded. He later led as many of the walking wounded as could be found out to the rallying point on Cemetery Hill.

His adventures were only beginning…

View northward from East Cemetery Hill. LoC.
View northward from East Cemetery Hill. LoC.

Davis and two comrades went out to find cold water, but found themselves isolated. They spent the duration of the battle inside a house hastily abandoned by its owners when the battle began.

According to the biographer, “It was silent on the fourth day and they figured the battle was over; and the Army of the Potomac had not been defeated. The owner of the house came back with his family and told them the Rebels had retreated and the Union Army was holding the field. The three soldiers then hired the man to drive them to York, Pa., where the railroad was and the wounded were being gathered. There was great confusion, but trains were being organized and the wounded treated. Those who could travel were loaded on the train to be taken to hospitals in Philadelphia. The bridge over the Susquehanna River had been destroyed to prevent the Confederates from crossing and marching on Philadelphia, so the men were loaded into boxcars and sent south [on the Northern Central Railway once the bridges the Confederates burned had been rebuilt] to Baltimore, there to be shifted into trains for Philadelphia.

By this time some passenger coaches were available. The men were fed and furnished water along the route by citizens loyal to the north and some treatment was given to their wounds by surgeons on the train and by doctors in the villages enroute.”

Davis made it to Philadelphia and from there took a train to Cortland. He had been reported as killed, so his parents were stunned and thrilled when he walked into their farmhouse near McLean.

Lucien Davis survived his injuries, but never fought again. He received a medical discharge, but lived well into the 20th century. He died in 1912 and is buried in Cortland, NY.

Here is a link to Richard Palmer’s brief on-line biography of Lt. Lucien Davis.